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Junk, clutter, you name it

Updated on March 12, 2012

I've spent most of my life collecting junk. Oh, I thought it was something at the time, but it all turned out to be junk. Let me explain,...

As a youngster, we lived in a poor neighborhood, a hollow, really, full of transplanted Southerners (we lived in Maryland) and the assorted good old boys, and nobody there was particularly wealthy. We got our Christmas toys, but they'd be gone by the summer, and we'd prowl around the neighborhood finding balls and rackets and old tires and frisbees to play with. Or just improvise. A long extension cord was great for jump rope. Some clothespins and a tennis ball made for a great game of bowling. And some games you didn't need anything to play, like tag or hide and go seek, Mother May I, crack the whip and stuff like that.

But when we moved to a richer area, I realized how poor we were relative to the other kids, and it was painful. Seeing kids in brand new clothes and perfect hair, bragging about what their parents got them for their birthday or for getting good grades made me envious as hell. All of us guys collected baseball cards, but I couldn't get anything old unless a friend of mine donated some of his extras to help me out. I loved having cards to play games with because they didn't cost much then (this was the '70's), and I could play all sorts of games with them.

I developed "stuff envy". I hated that my mother couldn't get me cool stuff, and my father, who was never around, gave us barely enough to get by. I used to dream of having a ton of baseball cards, loads of records, and nice clothes. I wanted not to be rich, but just have as much as anybody else.

When I went away to college, I was stuck in a dorm with lots of rich kids, and they had all the cool stereos, the color tvs (we still didn't have one in 1984), the designer clothes, and as much money as their daddies would give them. And it hurt. Particularly when I was trying to ask girls out. Okay, one girl, but I felt inadequate because I didn't have enough stuff.

When I got out on my own, working, I would blow paychecks on all sorts of stuff, in many cases the stuff i wanted when I was a kid but could never have. To this day, i drink nothing but soda because getting that once every two weeks was special, and I want to relive it every day of my life.

In many ways, I was taking care of that little boy who had nothing by buying all the stuff I could get. By the late-1990's, I had about 500,000 sports cards, lots of albums and cassettes (about 500 albums worth), books, office equipment (I never quite got that one), and indulged one other habit,....professional wrestling videos.

I was part of a great group of folks who ran the GEnie Wrestling Alliance on the old GEnie online service, and when we all got pissed off at GEnie's draconian policies, and found local gateways to the internet, we rechristened ourselves the Global Wrestling Alliance and continued on until 2001 or so. As one of the match runners for our group, I studied videotapes of various wrestlers to come up with their player cards for their characters. And I really got into it.

Again, I checked out video lists on the internet, and found guys who put my little collection to shame. There were people with thousands of tapes in their individual lists, and I again felt small next to them.

So, what did I do? In the name of studying more wrestlers, I accumulated tapes. I found the nephew of my family doctor who was selling his collection. He had over 50 boxes chock full of stuff. Talk about a dream come true! I eventually made a couple of trips down there and bought around 120 tapes from him.

All the while, I'm still collecting baseball cards, sorting them into sets, and putting all the star duplicates in plastic penny sleeves to sell at flea markets and the cheap card shows, and having albums for insert series. Plus, I was always buying because there was a rush in opening boxes of cards, seeing what you might get. It was a high, I tell you!

And I would label all my wrestling tapes in 3-ring binders, cross-indexing them so I know what matches were on multiple tapes. I also started a master list, keeping track of how many matches each prominent wrestler had. (This list eventually got computerized, but the match listings didn't. There's three notebooks full.)

As 2002 rolled around, the cost of cards got so expensive that I stopped buying new product, focusing on older sets that I wanted to finish, and still thinking this stuff was gonna make me rich. But the high was gone. I just opened cards up not for enjoyment, but because I felt I had to complete a set. They meant nothing anymore.

I got that way with wrestling tapes in 2006. I was still taping WWE and TNA on VHS, still maintaining the master list and several sublists, but the GWA was long gone, and I wasn't deriving much enjoyment from them. I actually started devaluing them during about 2005, when I'd get a new bunch of tapes and just fast-forward through them to get match results written down, and put 'em on a shelf, never to watch some of them again.

In 2007, I had to move to a smaller house, and the amount of stuff I had was overwhelming. So much of it. Books, baseball cards, videos, records, tapes, and my mother's stuff as well, all of her videos, books, knickknacks, blankets, recipes, and other stuff that got dumped on her from people dying years before. And it was clutter.

I've been in therapy for a few years, and one of the issues is that I can't throw things away. And it's a joke. My wrestling video tape collection is over 1,000 (I finally came to my senses and stopped my taping schedules in 2010). I have all those sports cards, every computer I've ever owned, going back to my Commodore 128 and Amiga, all the disks and books for those, books about baseball, wrestling, and self-help, a file cabinet full of old Sporting News that are nowhere near mint or anything. It's just that I hate to toss something I might need to use.

But, as my therapist has pointed out to me, I don't really need them. With youtube, I can see most of my favorite wrestling matches and interviews, classic comedy sketches and cartoons. Not all, but most of them. And as far as keeping those old Sporting News and baseball magazines for research, there are websites that have all of that info. I use them quite regularly for my baseball articles here.

I have over 3000 songs on my hard drive, and youtube also helps me with that, as I can see lots of music I like on there. And I can always turn on the website for my favorite classic rock station while I'm doing other stuff.

But the biggest thing is keeping stuff because it connects me with another generation, with those I've lost. My mother, in particular. But as my therapist has pointed out, getting rid of Mom's dishes and knickknacks is not getting rid of her. She's in my heart, and in my mind, and in my soul, and I don't need an old tablecloth or pot holder to remind me that she loved me and I loved her.

And I'm not desecrating my family's memories by getting rid of stuff that my grandparents or aunts of uncles had by selling them or giving them away. Some stuff is good, some of it is junk no matter how old it is.

In the end, people don't like you for the stuff you have, but who you are. I admit that I kept some stuff so people would see how cool I was, but I'm 48 years old now. Cool is something for teenagers. What is cool changes all the time. When I was in college, cool was rock and roll, Tom Cruise, big hair, Trans Ams, and Moonlighting. Now, it's hip hop, shaved heads, tattoos, and I don't even know who is cool anymore.

So, I have all this stuff, some of it still in boxes, and some of it organized, if not neatly, then at least in some kind of order. I have all sorts of excuses not to get rid of it, but each week, more of it goes in the trash. Maybe some day, I won't have a house that looks like it's been on Hoarders.


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